Friday, September 09, 2016

Staying Fit

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize?  Run so as to win.  Every athlete exercises discipline in every way.  They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.  Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.  No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.  (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption,
look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters,
that those who believe in Christ
may receive true freedom
and an everlasting inheritance.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
(Collect for Week 23, Creighton University's Praying Ordinary Time Home Page)

In today’s first reading, Paul alludes to the Isthmian Games conducted the year before and the year after the Greek Olympics.  Besides athletic events, the games also included chariot racing and poetry and music contests.  The original prize was a celery wreath or crown, which was later replaced by a laurel wreath.  Only the person winning first place received one.  There were no silver or bronze medals in those days.  Everyone in Paul's day would have known exactly what the use of powerful imagery of athletes meant.

The apostle uses imagery from these games to describe our lives as Christians.  He makes one distinction, however.  The prize for winning an Isthmian Games event was a wreath that would wilt and dry up within a few days.  The prize we seek as Christians, being with Jesus forever in God’s Kingdom, is imperishable.  Win that crown, and it will never wither or fade.

So just how do we followers of Jesus Christ train and keep ourselves fit?  I'm no athlete, but I do know that different types of sports call for different sorts of training.  We soon realize that the journey as a Christian is more a marathon than a sprint.  Faith calls for endurance and perseverance.

When the way is steep, and we grow weary, what is it that keeps us going?  Primarily, it's loving Jesus and wanting to be with him.  We don't love people we don't know intimately, and being close friends with Jesus happens through Scripture study and prayer.  For me, the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises have been an extraordinary means for growing closer to the Lord. 

Along the way, we try to let go of the things that tie us to this world and hold us back.  Maybe it's unhealthy relationships from which we need to walk away.  Maybe it's climbing the career ladder that has diverted our attention.  There may be many encumbrances we need to shed if we're going be able to keep on running toward the goal.

Companionship along the way is a big help.  When your energy is waning, or your spirits are flagging, having someone running beside you, encouraging you, helps.  And Cursillo provides us with running companions.  Sometimes our fellow Cursillistas carry us, and sometimes we carry them.  That’s being Christ to one another.

There may only have been one winner for each event in the Isthmian Games, but Jesus loves all of us and wants all of us to be there at the finish line.  He hopes and desires that we will be with him for all eternity.

I took piano lessons for ten years when I was young.  As I was pondering Paul's words, I remembered one music teacher saying:  "If you don't practice for a day, you'll know it.  If you don't practice for two days, musicians will be able to tell.  But, if you let three days go by without practicing, everyone will know it.
It's the same principle in our lives as Christians.  We have to be disciplined.  When we don't pray for a few days, it's all too easy just to let talking with Jesus fall by the wayside.  If we don't discern the disordered attachments that hold us back spiritually, they can weigh us down and pull us entirely off track.  The solitary life isn’t the Christian life.  Going it alone can leave us feeling discouraged and ready to give up.  To stay the course, we need each other.

Does your fitness/training program need any tweaking?

No comments: